HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Police Anonymous
Pubdate: Sat, 20 Apr 2002
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 The Toronto Star
Bookmark: (Treatment)


It takes courage to admit to a drug or alcohol problem. It takes even more 
guts to stand before a group of strangers and speak about your struggles.

Yet this mix of soul-bearing testimonials, anonymity and trust is at the 
heart of the recovery programs that have helped thousands of people kick 
their destructive addictions and resume productive lives.

The disturbing news that a Toronto undercover police officer infiltrated 
one such counselling group in Peterborough puts all this good work at risk.

Toronto police officials take pains to say that the objective in the 
Peterborough case was to keep tabs on a murder suspect, who happened to 
belong to Narcotics Anonymous. They insist they had no interest in her 
statements to the group.

But that distinction is lost on those who attend these self-help sessions 
and can see the police action for what it was -- a horrendous breach of trust.

"Revelations of this kind of police behaviour will scare people out of 
Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and related organizations, and 
will more than likely result in some of them losing their battles with 
addiction," said Peter Armstrong, president of Renascent, an alcoholic and 
drug recovery organization.

Certainly, the mere suspicion that cops may be posing as a drug addicts or 
alcoholics to get into these groups is bound to have a chilling effect on 
those who rely on this kind of therapy for help, especially for the members 
of Narcotics Anonymous. By using drugs, they've already run afoul of the law.

Indeed, the damage may have already been done. In Peterborough, three 
recovering addicts quit the group after learning an undercover officer had 
been a member.

Cops claim the decision to send officers into such situations is not taken 
lightly. Nor, they say, is it done often.

But with no policy on the books, such assurances ring hollow. Fact is, 
there's nothing to stop an officer from slipping into the monthly meeting 
of a local Narcotics Anonymous group in an effort to uncover the 
neighbourhood drug users.

Such a serious issue calls for the voice of the chief. Chief Julian Fantino 
should immediately reassure the community that his officers will no longer 
resort to sneaking into therapy and counselling sessions as part of their 
crime probes.

The courts must be prepared to back that message by tossing out any 
evidence gathered by such egregious investigative methods.

Officers have plenty of tools at their disposal to investigate crimes. They 
don't have to engage in practices that abuse the community's trust.
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